By Jennifer Armstrong
June 30, 2009 at 05:59 PM EDT
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Chris Kattan has joined the cast of ABC’s new fall comedy The Middle — a solid, if hardly life-changing, family sitcom starring Patricia Heaton. The pilot is actually pretty funny: Heaton makes a great harried mom, the wonderfully deadpan Neil Flynn (of “Janitor” fame on Scrubs) plays her husband, and they nail the quirky-family vibe. Kattan will play one of Heaton’s coworkers at a car dealership (here’s to hoping their dealership doesn’t go under like, um, all the rest of them in the United States). To me, this is exactly the right use of Kattan, or any moderately funny Saturday Night Live alum — small doses, in supporting roles that can play to their strengths.

Post-SNL roles used to be something of a joke — and enterprises like Kattan’s own Night at the Roxbury have never helped the sketch comics’ reputations as anything resembling actors. (But, hey, Will Ferrell was there, too, and he survived nicely, Land of the Lost notwithstanding.) These days we’ve got more successful SNL alums than we can handle, from Jimmy Fallon to Maya Rudolph, who’s getting good reviews even in a dramatic role in Away We Go. The key is actually thinking before giving these folks a part: As far as I’m concerned, Tina Fey deserves an Emmy just for Perfect Use of Tracy Morgan. I like that guy more now that he’s on 30 Rock than I ever did on SNL.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Are you excited to see Chris Kattan again? Will his casting make you want to watch The Middle more or less? Can you ever forgive him for Night at the Roxbury?

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The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.
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